Holiday visitors continue to pour into the Greek Island with another bumper rise in tourists. January to May 2014 has seen more than 3.5 million arrivals, a jump of 17% on figures for the same period last year. Arrivals from the UK are up 25% this year, according to the Bank of Greece while visitors from across Europe rose more than 12%. Other countries showing a rise in the popularity of Greek Island holidays are Russia, which recorded a 39% rise in visitors to 146,000. Tourists are also spending more with a 10% jump in revenues from tourism helping to swell Greek coffers by €1.8 billion so far this year. The only cloud on the sunny outlook is a drop in cruise ship numbers last year, down 3.7% to 4.6 million. Experts blame fleet restructuring by the big cruise ship companies and the congestion in Greek Island ports.
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Independent holiday guides to all the main Greek islands and beach resorts as well as travel information and holiday offers from tour companies and Greek hotel owners. We try to keep it all up to date but with so many islands it's not easy. Please email Greek Islands Postcards about any inaccuracies.
As an antidote to the usual gushing Greece holiday brochures we offer a more prosaic peek at holiday travel in the Greek islands with unbiased reports and independent guides to the best Greek beaches.
Our Popular Greek islands list those in greatest demand. They usually have their own airport and plenty of tourist attractions.
The Peaceful islands tend to be off the main tourist trail and, while some have larger airports, others may need a ferry journey to reach them.
The Sleepy islands are well off the tourist track and may only be reached by ferry, with some a considerable distance from the nearest large airport.
Our Offbeat islands are mainly for those seeking a more remote and authentic Greek islands holiday.
Featured Greek beaches
Achladies sits on the south coast of Skiathos. A beach of golden sand is backed by a hotel complex. It's set in a large, sheltered bay hedged with olive and citrus groves with a couple of beach tavernas nearby.
Trianda, along with Ixia is the main luxury hotel strip for Rhodes Town from five star luxury class hotels to all-inclusive family holiday hotels. Bars and restaurants are everywhere behind the long pebble and sand beach.
Milos is a long and deep stretch of cliff-backed sands on the remote north-west coast of Lefkas; one of a trio of coarse sand and pebble beaches near Agios Nikitas, and ideal for visitors who want to escape the crowds.
Seaplane services linking the Greek Islands look set for take-off soon after the Greek government gave the go-ahead for test flights on water runways in the Peloponnese in July. If successful, holidaymakers could find island hopping must faster with plans already in the pipeline to launch seaplane services from ports on Corfu, Crete and Zante. A recent statement suggests seaplane flights would be aimed at tourists and not compete with current ferry schedules. It is expected that permits will be granted to island port authorities to put seaplane services out to tender. A number of private companies are already offering to fly island routes. This is not the first attempt to establish a seaplane network across the Greek Islands. A similar scheme was launched in 2005 but collapsed under a sea of red tape.
Featured Greek sights
Karya is a beautiful hillside village with cool mountian breezes and water springs that is famed for its fine embroidery as displayed in the folklore museum housed in a former village embroidery school building.
Perched at the top of a pine carpeted hill on Aegina, the 5th century BC temple of Aphaia is regarded as one of the best in Greece with 24 columns still standing and a template for the famous Parthenon in Athens.
The cool, damp limestone caves of Drogorati, around 60 metres deep, bristle with impressive stalagmites and stalactites. The main cavern is hugely impressive and is even big enough to host orchestral concerts.
Greek has increased its share of prestigious Blue Flag awards in 2014 with a total of 408 beaches and 10 marinas granted the sought after status. Greece now ranks number two in the world for the number of quality beaches along its many island coastlines, picking up 15 more awards than last year's 393 beaches and nine marinas. Many major travel companies pick out the Blue Flag status of resorts when choosing destinations to offer their customers. The Blue Flag label has been an international symbol of quality since 1987 when flags were first awarded to holiday beaches and marinas that meet strict standards of cleanliness and safety. Blue Flag awards are the gold standard in the tourism industry with more than 50 countries across the world bidding for flags issued by the Foundation for Environmental Education.
Scuba diving off the Greek Islands got a new lease of life when diving bans were lifted. Now Greek scuba dive centres are springing up everywhere to meet the demand. Until recently, diving was limited to just a few Greek island dive sites in order to protect the ancient underwater treasures that lie beneath its seas. Now scuba diving is allowed pretty much everywhere in Greek seas with just a few prohibited sites. The result has been a sharp rise in the number of Greek Island diving centres. In choosing one for your holiday be sure to check that instructors are PADI qualified and the wise will take out specialist scuba diving insurance just in case. That said, the crystal clear waters of Greece are teeming with marine life and there are some spectacular caves and shipwrecks for Greek Island visitors to explore.
Planning ahead has always been a headache for those who like Greek island hopping on the extensive ferry system. Summer timetables were never published before May making it hard work to plan a Greek holiday on more than a couple of islands. This year is different. Ferry companies got together and agreed to release summer routes and schedules at the end of last year. The move makes it possible for Greek holiday enthusiasts to cash in on holiday discounts for booking cheap flights early safe in the knowledge that they will not find themselves stuck on an island for days trying to find out when the next ferry sailing is scheduled. The much-welcomed move, along with newly launched seaplane services, should help boost visitor numbers to the Greek Islands even more and extend the holiday season.
There are more than 6,000 Greek Islands but most are just lumps of rock. Only around 230 are inhabited and about 80 have a population over 100. About a dozen are major holiday destinations with another 20 having substantial tourist visitors. There are six basic island groupings: the Ionian lie to the west and contain holiday islands of Corfu, Lefkas, Kefalonia and Zante. The Cyclades are found in the central Aegean and include Mykonos and Santorini as well as lesser visited islands like Paros and Naxos. To the east are the Dodecanese and major islands like Rhodes and Kos as well as smaller ones such as Symi and Patmos. To the northeast is the Sporades group which includes Skiathos and the north Aegean group of Samos, Lesvos and Thassos. To the south is Crete - big enough to be on its own.